Combined A-La-Carte: What in The World is That?

Saturday, October 29, 2016
Posted by Bettina Scherer and Erika Matulich

The Gangsters and HorsesDaily's own Mary Phelps

The Gangsters and HorsesDaily's own Mary Phelps (Photo: Picsofyou.com)

If you are in the process of figuring out your 2017 show schedule, you no doubt have seen a new reference to a “CAC.” If you have downloaded the 2017 ADS Combined Driving Event form for Spring Fling, you may have fallen off your chair...but don’t despair, Dr. Erika Matulich to the rescue!

Erika is a Registered “R” Technical Delegate in Combined Driving and serves on the American Driving Society Combined Driving Committee. She explains: CAC (Combined a la Carte) simply means that you can choose whichever division you want (training, preliminary, intermediate, advanced) for each of the three competitions (dressage, marathon, cones).  It allows you the flexibility of trying out what best suits you and your equine and prepares you for the next competition.  

If you want to go the “traditional” route you certainly have that option, and you would choose the same division across all three competitions (for example, preliminary dressage, preliminary cones, preliminary marathon).  If you are wanting to try something else out or experiment, you could mix it up.

For example, an Intermediate VSE driver did not want to do the 100M ring, and opted for a preliminary dressage test in the smaller ring, advanced cones (just to see if she could do it), and intermediate marathon. Another driver had a younger horse who had only done CTs in the past and opted to do preliminary dressage (because she was very familiar with that test), intermediate cones, but training marathon.  Another competitor might be preparing for a large competition and would do advanced dressage/cones (if offered) and not “wear out” their equine and do a training marathon.  Each person chooses what best suits them according to what the show is offering. (ex: 3*B advanced test for dressage, intermediate cones, and preliminary marathon)

For marathon, you do need to be “qualified” for that division.  In other words, a person who has only ever done training would not be able to choose to drive an Intermediate marathon, just like that same person could not enter Intermediate at a traditional show.  

This format is popular in other countries at the national/country level (like ADS) but is not offered at the international (FEI) level.  The format allows you to train and prepare for international (FEI) shows.  That is why the option was added to the ADS.  We don’t want any driver to feel they cannot compete just because they or their equine can’t do all three competitions at the same level, and we want to encourage trying out new levels to see if a driver can advance.  

How are you scored, and who are you competing against? If, for example, you wish to do an Advanced Dressage Test, a Preliminary Marathon because it’s the first show of the season and your horse or pony isn’t fit enough yet, and Intermediate cones, you are competing against other drivers in the same division of that competition.  You would be scored and receive a ribbon for the 3*BHP1 Advanced dressage test against all the other drivers who drove the same test.  You would then receive another ribbon for Intermediate cones (horse and pony, driving the same speed), and a third ribbon for the preliminary marathon (single horse, all driving the same speed).  Competitors seem to find this format rewarding because they could get a green ribbon for dressage, eliminate in cones, but also get a blue ribbon for the marathon.  You can also see exactly how you stack up against drivers at the same level in that particular competition.

The entry forms are a little bit different because you need to specify which dressage test, which division of cones, and which division of marathon you will be choosing. The ADS has not yet provided a standardized entry form, so each show has a custom form you should use. For example, for the Spring Fling CAC held at the Horse Park in February, here is the top of the entry form – note the boxes to check to choose your dressage, marathon, and cones:


The December 2016 Grand Oaks DT/CT is not a CAC.  Neither is Little Everglades or Black Prong. Use the standard CDE entry form for those shows. The January 2017 Nature Coast show is a CAC.  The February 2017 Spring Fling is also CAC.  Use their CAC entry forms as posted on the Omnibus listing (under entry form) or on the show website.

The CAC format allows everyone to compete at a show in the way that best suits them – either going the traditional route of staying in the same division for all competitions, or choosing from a “menu” of options that works best for them. The format is similar to the Florida Whips schooling shows that were “Have it Your Way” or “Pick a Test” but now it is authorized at the ADS level. Have fun, everyone